Are wearables just a fad?

April 3, 2014

cyborg eye implantMy mate Andy Patrizio recently put an interesting article up on IT World, ‘The wearable fad is quickly wearing out its welcome‘. In it he reviews some interesting research, including a new white paper from Endeavour Partners and data from Strategy Analytics.

eBay is rapidly filling with second-hand Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatches, a hint that the wearable gimmick may be running its course already. Considering that it just started last year, that’s remarkable even by the usual 15 minutes of fame standards.

Then there’s Google Glasses, where the reaction has been rather negative as people fear being recorded. One woman was assaulted for wearing them in a San Francisco bar, of all places.

So what’s going on? Why are the few people who buy smartwatches dumping them?

Andy puts up some interesting ideas to explain this, and I think he is onto something. But I think this is reflecting more the type of device that is getting attention today, mostly the general purpose wearables. So I posted my reply on the original post:

Most of the hype to-date has been around what I call ‘bragables’ – Glass, Gear, etc. These general-purpose devices are more important to Silicon Valley hype merchants wanting to impress press and investors than to average businesses and consumers looking for utility from small-scale portable devices. As this market matures, however, I believe the real movement forward will be use-specific devices.

E.g., despite the whitepaper’s findings, consumer use-specific devices like FitBit and FuelBand continue to be commercially successful. In business, use-specific wearables are being adopted in healthcare, sports, entertainment, manufacturing, and retail to create hands-free compute capabilities for patient monitoring, training data, customer engagement, mobile payments, inventory management, stock control, production scheduling, and a whole lot more.

I firmly believe the future of wearables is not in the general-purpose techbro bragables that are getting the hype today; but rather in practical, use-specific wearables that will continue to develop, driving fantastic new use cases and a valuable market opportunity.

I think Andy nails exactly some of the reasons why general purpose wearables are looking more and more like a fad. And as he says, “It’s still early. … It could be someone has to come along and do it right.” I just do not think that is going to be yet another general purpose wearable, for all the reasons Andy says and more.

Bring on the use-specific wearables.

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2 Responses to Are wearables just a fad?

  1. Gordon Haff
    April 8, 2014 at 09:01

    I suspect you and Andy are probably right–at least barring ways to communicate with devices without phone-size screens that are a lot more effective than anything that we see today. I once thought a nano-type watch was obvious but dedicated MP3 players are less interesting than they were given that people carry smartphones everywhere. Augmented reality is certainly interesting but I suspect it’s (at a minimum) pretty far out for mainstream users.

    • April 10, 2014 at 16:05

      Thanks Gordon, appreciate your comment. It’s a really good point, the clamour for a Nano watch was overwhelming, but now it seems like that would not do much for a mass market. Apple were probably smart (no pun intended) to ignore that pressure. And it still surprises me that Glass is not an augmented reality headset, although I guess future development could allow that.

      I do hope that the best in wearables is yet to come.